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[buht-er] /ˈbʌt ər/
the fatty portion of milk, separating as a soft whitish or yellowish solid when milk or cream is agitated or churned.
this substance, processed for cooking and table use.
any of various other soft spreads for bread:
apple butter; peanut butter.
any of various substances of butterlike consistency, as various metallic chlorides, and certain vegetable oils solid at ordinary temperatures.
verb (used with object)
to put butter on or in; spread or grease with butter.
to apply a liquefied bonding material to (a piece or area), as mortar to a course of bricks.
Metalworking. to cover (edges to be welded together) with a preliminary surface of the weld metal.
Verb phrases
butter up, Informal. to flatter someone in order to gain a favor:
He suspected that they were buttering him up when everyone suddenly started being nice to him.
Origin of butter
before 1000; Middle English; Old English butere < Latin būtȳrum < Greek boútȳron
Related forms
butterless, adjective
butterlike, adjective
unbuttered, adjective
Can be confused
budder, butter. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for butter up
Historical Examples
  • Ye see she's dependent on Jeames, so she has to butter up at 'im.

    A Window in Thrums

    J. M. Barrie
  • You may draw the butter up out of the well, presently, when breakfast is quite ready.

    Mildred Keith

    Martha Finley
  • When you reach the place where your left hand feels empty without a piece of bread in it, just butter up another amole and try it.

    Her Father's Daughter Gene Stratton-Porter
  • Thereput them in that cupboard, and set the butter up here, and put the bread in this box, do you see?

    The Wide, Wide World Susan Warner
  • I say so myself; and butter up my vanity with all the stimulating compliments I can think of.

British Dictionary definitions for butter up

butter up

(transitive, adverb) to flatter


  1. an edible fatty whitish-yellow solid made from cream by churning, for cooking and table use
  2. (as modifier): butter icing, related adjective butyraceous
any substance with a butter-like consistency, such as peanut butter or vegetable butter
look as if butter wouldn't melt in one's mouth, to look innocent, although probably not so
verb (transitive)
to put butter on or in
to flatter
See also butter up
Word Origin
Old English butere, from Latin būtyrum, from Greek bouturon, from bous cow + turos cheese
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for butter up



Old English butere "butter," general West Germanic (cf. Old Frisian, Old High German butera, German Butter, Dutch boter), an early loan-word from Latin butyrum "butter" (source of Italian burro, Old French burre, French beurre), from Greek boutyron, perhaps literally "cow-cheese," from bous "ox, cow" (see cow (n.)) + tyros "cheese;" but this might be a folk etymology of a Scythian word.

The product was used from an early date in India, Iran and northern Europe, but not in ancient Greece and Rome. Herodotus described it (along with cannabis) among the oddities of the Scythians. Butter-knife attested from 1818.



Old English buterian "spread butter on," from the same source as butter (n.). Figurative meaning "to flatter lavishly" is by 1798 (with up (adv.), in Connelly's Spanish-English dictionary, p.413). Related: Buttered; buttering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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butter up in Medicine

butter but·ter (bŭt'ər)

  1. A soft yellowish or whitish emulsion of butterfat, water, air, and sometimes salt, churned from milk or cream and processed for use in cooking and as a food.

  2. A soft solid having at room temperature a consistency like that of butter.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for butter up



Flattery; cajolery; soft soap (1823+)


(also butter up) To flatter shamelessly and fulsomely (1700+)

Related Terms

like shit through a tin horn

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with butter up

butter up

Excessively praise or flatter someone, usually to gain a favor. For example, If you butter up Dad, he'll let you borrow the car. This term transfers the oily, unctuous quality of butter to lavish praise. [ c. 1700 ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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